Cardinals Offense vs. Falcons Defense
The Big Red struggled on offense in Week 1, putting the ball on the carpet seven times -- losing four -- including two in the red zone. Derek Anderson showed flashes of his ability, but struggled to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald and went through a stretch of seven straight in-completions. The running game was productive in St. Louis and should get a boost if Beanie Wells returns, but ball security must be a priority.
The Falcons' defense played very well in Pittsburgh and is anchored by a fast, talented linebacking corps consisting of Sean Weatherspoon, Curtis Lofton, Mike Petersom and veteran pass rusher John Abraham. Despite some injuries in the secondary, Atlanta's defense is well-coached and the return of DT Jonathan Babineaux makes them a formidable unit, particularly up front.
Cardinals Defense vs. Falcons Offense
Arizona's defense was the key in the season opener and it should be on Sunday as well. Expect defensive coordinator Bill Davis to move safety Adrian Wilson all over the field to maximize his playmaking ability. Pressure on QB Matt Ryan is a necessity and Calais Campbell and Joey Porter will need to carry over their disruptive play from last week. Ryan is a steady, consistent performer, but the Falcons will need more from him to take the next step this season.
RB Michael Turner is one of the most productive backs in the league while Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are perennial standouts in the passing game, making this a well-rounded offense. The line is aggressive, but lacks consistency. Atlanta struggled against Pittsburgh's defense in their season opener, failing to get into the end zone and they'll have something to prove in Week 2.
Key Player: Darnell Dockett
Dockett was key in holding Michael Turner to just 42 rushing yards the last time the Cardinals and Falcons saw each other and he will need to continue his stellar play on Sunday to keep Atlanta's offense one-dimensional. In addition, Dockett is an outstanding pass rusher for an interior lineman and his pass-rushing skills will be crucial for the Big Red to improve to 2-0. Dockett will also be motivated playing in his hometown, so expect him to be a major force in the trenches on Sunday.
The Cardinals' growing pains on offense with continue with Derek Anderson under center, but the unit should improve over the course of this game. However, the questions continue to linger about ball security and continuity on the line that keep them on the wrong end of a glass ceiling.
The Falcons have too much talent on both sides of the ball for Arizona to overcome at this point. Roddy White is poised for a big game and expect Matt Ryan to expose the middle of the field with Tony Gonzalez, giving Atlanta the edge in a hard fought contest.
Falcons 24, Cardinals 21
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The Breakdown: Cardinals @ Falcons
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